Rolls-Royce Limited was formed in March 1906. After considering sites for their new premises in Manchester, Coventry, Bradford and Leicester, it was an offer from Derby’s council of cheap electricity that resulted in the decision to acquire land on the southern edge of that city for their new factory.
After the First World War, Rolls-Royce successfully avoided attempts to encourage the British car manufacturers to merge. Faced with falling sales of the 40/50 (later known as Silver Ghost) the company introduced the smaller, cheaper Twenty in 1922, effectively ending the one-model policy followed since 1908. They continued to produce the Twenty until 1936.
The 1930s was the era of broken land, air and sea records. Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record in Bluebird at 272.46 mph in 1933. In 1937 George Eyston smashed this with 312.2 mph in Thunderbolt, powered by two Rolls-Royce ‘R’ engines. Sir Henry Segrave broke the world sea record at 119 mph in Miss England II, powered by ‘R’ engines.
In 1931 Rolls-Royce acquired the much smaller rival car maker, Bentley, after the latter’s finances failed to weather the onset of the Great Depression. From soon after World War II until 2002 standard Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars were often identical apart from the radiator grille and minor details.
Today, owned by BMW, the Rolls-Royce name and the flying lady mascot, ‘The Spirt of Ecstasy’ are synonymous quality and style.